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"Rina" before Roena

Updated: Feb 29, 2020

Sometimes our truest passions have a way of coming back to you in ways that you least expect. That’s what I learned the most about myself. The years of me playing dress-up with dolls and my mother’s clothes should have prepared me for a life that was dedicated to fashion and beauty, But it didn’t. I took a detour, and a long one at that.

Between the ages of nine to fourteen, I devoted hours to the craft of sewing and fashion design. However, fashion wasn’t necessarily a career one would take in an Asian household, and yet being an Animator was somehow more reputable. Eventually my focus diverged elsewhere. There was a time where I devoted myself to fiction and comic books, anime and films. In some way the world of cinema and fantasy always resonated with me. I enjoyed dissecting nuances in every cut and detail, trying to understand how imagery often plays with the narrative.

I wanted to build worlds to push the limits of what our current reality could be, and as “Rina” I played into that role. I lived this sort of weird ideal in my head of being the example of change I wanted to see in this world, and damn right, I wanted to look and feel like it. I dressed weird and I didn’t care. I shaved half of my head, dyed it blue, played video games and attended comic conventions.I rejected the norm, got myself a Tumblr account, and distanced myself from the mainstream. So, you guessed it. I was a hipster.

Just kidding.

Or am I?

I did go to Art School and listened to Vampire Weekend (and I still do).

Jokes aside, I flaunted being an artist, and I thought I was hot shit. Anyone who didn’t meet the standard wasn’t worth my time. (Yeah, I was that bitch). I thought that an art degree was going to define me. Then five years later, it didn’t. So what changed?

It turns out that I’m not necessarily built for a job behind the desk. Who knew that centuries of monks drawing and writing in the dark would persist in the career of a video game artist within the twenty-first century?

I would transit from home in the peak of the morning hours, and it would still be dark. Go to class and have class in the dark, and then return home around 11 pm. It was the worst and it took a toll on my mental health. But one thing often got me through the day, and it was the same thing I always loved as a child: playing dress-up, but this time it was as a character designer.

A childhood of watching Final Fantasy, Sailor Moon and Harry Potter brought forth dreams of power, magic, and a magical wardrobe. In a way, I wanted to be a part of their world, or at least build my own. Soon, years of sewing and crafting have re-emerged, and I accidentally became a Fashion Stylist.

How I specifically became a fashion stylist would be a story for another time, but now I’ve come to terms with my own reality by learning that being a geek and character designer aren’t mutually exclusive from being a fashion stylist after all. Art school has armed me with the knowledge and history of people, and their need for tangible resources in order to exert imagery and power. Now, I help people bring their innermost characters to life, and make fashion an extension of their being. I help build narratives for people to control, and build worlds for people to fantasize. In many ways we all wish to be a better version of ourselves, and I make it my passion to see it through.

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